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Unread 02-12-2014, 07:58 PM   #1
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Annoying things in worship songs

A friend sent me this and got me really fired up. Then he said I should actually click on the embedded links in the commentary. What a difference it made. I am keeping this for many future uses!

Annoying Things in Worship Songs – Justin Taylor

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Unread 02-13-2014, 01:03 AM   #2
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Interesting article.

I have referred to the Psalms myself in reference t certain things in worship songs--
However we can still overdo it.
the Psalms have variety--some worship services don't reflect that.

but still food for thought.
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Unread 02-13-2014, 06:45 AM   #3
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Eh. Yes and no.

He seems to be taking some legitimate concerns that some might have about legitimately bad worship songs and glossing them over a bit. And there seem to be some real problems in his points.

For example, point #1 sort of defeats itself right away.

The referenced Psalm does not seem (at all) to be banal, lacking in depth, shallow, or doctrineless. Simple? Yeah. The others? Not so much. On the other hand, there are praise songs that are all of those things and that very much deserve that criticism.

#2 - Repetitiveness. Sure, it has a place. In the referenced Psalms it has context and meaning. With a "song" like "Dance in the River." Eeehhhh . . . . probably not. Repetition should serve the purpose of driving a point home, not whipping us into a frenzy or lulling us into a trance.

#3 - Um. The focus of that Psalm is not on the instruments. It's on praising God.

#4 - Too much focus on an intimate relationship. Yeah. Consider "Dance With Me" by Jesus Culture. There are songs that literally do come off as the cliched "Jesus is my boyfriend." Jesus is not our boyfriend, and we should not be singing to him like he is.

#5 - Hey. No problems there. Good long songs have lots of room for good solid doctrine. Lex orandi, lex credendi (Latin, roughly "the law of praying [is] the law of believing"). Singing is one of the best ways the church has to help the body commit good theology and doctrine to memory and to heart.

#6 - Wish I knew what songs prompted this particular criticism. I don't feel I can respond adequately to this point at the moment other than to say good Christian doctrine sung in good songs will be universally relatable to the body. If it's not universally relatable, perhaps it should be reevaluated. This sounds like a problem with temporary feelings being elevated over Biblical truth in the context of the song. It's the difference between saying "I'm walking through the valley of the shadow of death" and saying "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, You are with me." The former is just personal feeling. The latter is Biblical truth that concerns the entire body.

#7 - Okay.

#8 - Again, context and meaning. Is it that Psalm actually just expressing negative emotion or is there a point to it?

#9 - re: the first half of the point: A short song in itself is not an argument for saying it over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over . . . again, see #2.

This sort of argumentation only works to a point for me. Yes, you can find good reason for short, repetitive, intimate, whatever songs in the Psalms. But, keep in mind that those have context, meaning, and depth and they do not justify the legitimately bad, short, repetitive, intimate, whatever songs that are out there. And we should not be brushing aside the people who bring up concerns about those songs. Rather we need to carefully evaluate what they have to say. Songs used in corporate worship truly are an important part of the service and they deserve, even need, careful inspection and critique.
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Unread 02-13-2014, 07:24 AM   #4
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I see it as more of a bit of satire about the people who constantly dissect, analyze and broadbrush judge worship songs so much they should just wait and come to the service once the music ends. Over the years I have encountered pretty much every example of his generic complaints, applied in broad brush strokes to every style of music from hymns to contemporary to metrical psalms, to southern gospel. He is just poking a bit of satirical fun at the fact that many of those broadbrush complaints could just as ignorantly be applied to the psalms.

As a Worship Leader of 8 years in my previous church I'd really grown weary of people constantly dissecting and whining about worship music no matter what we did. Some were always trying to impose their personal taste in music on it. I once had a Sunday School teacher tell me “You won’t find those evil guitars in heaven. Only organ music and a heavenly choir”. Based on what scriptural reference would that come from sir? I’ve been chased down in the parking lot after services by people having issue with a single verse of a song. "That line is a bit too Arminian for my taste!" I've received emails complaining about a “lack of deep theology” in the songs, others complaining that the songs have too much deep theology and are difficult to sing, others whining that only the hymns with 6 stanzas are reverent enough for God, while others say the hymns are so monotonously overdone that they now sing them by rote and don’t even pay attention to the actual words anymore. What a shame as the words are usually quite wonderful. Some adhere to the Regulative Principle and say if it is not specifically commanded by God as a method of worship, you can’t do it. That means you have to ditch the organs and pianos in addition to the guitars. I have heard every possible complaint from every possible angle when it comes to church worship music that can be imagined. Those who don't like "repetition" would probably complain about Revelation 4:8. I even had complaints when we used metrical Psalms straight from scripture that they….didn’t rhyme like regular songs do. What?!?!? A worship leader in church, especially those like me who volunteer countless hours of their time, receive little in the way of encouragement or appreciation. We mostly only hear what we are doing wrong and we may in some cases have to decide which section of the sanctuary we want to have upset with us on any given Sunday.

Fortunately I have moved on to a church where I am surrounded with love and encouragement. A little whining here and there for sure, but nothing like what I and others I know have experienced over the years. And don't get me wrong, I have encountered plenty of "bad" worship songs over the years that could be categorized into one or more of his complaint list items too. Some are downright obnoxious. The problem is when people say "Contemporary music is (insert negative comment here)" or for that matter when applied in a broad brush to any style or music.

Last edited by Joe F; 02-13-2014 at 09:28 AM.
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Unread 02-13-2014, 08:28 AM   #5
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Oi, I feel for ya Joe.. that's got to drag you down, man. You know that saying about too many cooks in the kitchen? .___.

IMHO, the worship team should only get outside direction from the pastor. If something is off, he/she will let you know. And in a situation like that where the church feels free to treat you like a jukebox, the above has to be made plain or it will drive you nuts and beyond, and is a very unfair expectation from the worship team to put up with. Furthermore, in my experience.. the people that often find fault with such things tend to be those who aren't really worshipping anyways and are just there cause that's what ya do on Sunday. Just shut up and let the Spirit lead... gosh. lol
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Unread 02-13-2014, 10:51 AM   #6
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I completely get the frustration that worship leaders face and the criticisms they can get. I've been there too. So I'm not giving a pass to those who truly are simply complainers and will criticize anything.

My problem with the article is that, to me, it does not leave much (if any) room for the legitimate concerns; and for that reason I think it misses the mark.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Iron Broadsword View Post
Oi, I feel for ya Joe.. that's got to drag you down, man. You know that saying about too many cooks in the kitchen? .___.

IMHO, the worship team should only get outside direction from the pastor. If something is off, he/she will let you know. And in a situation like that where the church feels free to treat you like a jukebox, the above has to be made plain or it will drive you nuts and beyond, and is a very unfair expectation from the worship team to put up with. Furthermore, in my experience.. the people that often find fault with such things tend to be those who aren't really worshipping anyways and are just there cause that's what ya do on Sunday. Just shut up and let the Spirit lead... gosh. lol
Again, people who are simply complaining to complain don't get a pass, but I very strongly disagree with this. Direction perhaps should come from just the pastor, but congregational feedback should always be welcome. If what the worship team is doing is not square with Scripture and if it is not edifying to a significant part of the congregation, there is a problem.

In Acts 17, the Bereans are commended for examining the message that they were receiving from Paul and Silas, comparing it to Scripture. They did not shut up and just let the Spirit lead, but they actively engaged their God-given minds to test what they were being presented with.

The same should be true for worshippers today. Corporate worship is not the time to shut up, turn off your brain, and just let the Spirit lead. After all, the Spirit may very well be telling the congregation that the song the worship team is playing is garbage and needs to be thrown out. And if there's a disagreement, we can use our minds, open up Scripture, and see what is actually Biblical.

Again, I understand the trials that worship leaders can face. I have been through worship wars. But having been a worship leader in the past, I also know that we can get it wrong and there are times when I really wish some of the congregation would have brought some well thought-out concerns to us as the worship team, rather than just "we don't like the style." It would have been a great opportunity for the worship team to be built up and matured and for us to learn how the congregation could have been better edified.
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Unread 02-13-2014, 11:08 AM   #7
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Wow, I should've kept going.. honestly I think people should bring that kinda stuff to the pastor and let him/her sort it out. But I do think the congregation should be able to have conversations about this stuff and bring things up to the worship team, we're all family. What I was referring to by "outside direction" was where a member of the congregation might feel they know exactly the way it should be and therefore take it upon themselves to make sure it goes down that way. Direction as in instruction.. poor choice of words I guess. I was sympathizing.
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Unread 02-13-2014, 12:30 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe F View Post
I see it as more of a bit of satire about the people who constantly dissect, analyze and broadbrush judge worship songs so much they should just wait and come to the service once the music ends. Over the years I have encountered pretty much every example of his generic complaints, applied in broad brush strokes to every style of music from hymns to contemporary to metrical psalms, to southern gospel. He is just poking a bit of satirical fun at the fact that many of those broadbrush complaints could just as ignorantly be applied to the psalms.
Exactly!

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Originally Posted by Reuben View Post
Eh. Yes and no.

He seems to be taking some legitimate concerns that some might have about legitimately bad worship songs and glossing them over a bit. And there seem to be some real problems in his points.

For example, point #1 sort of defeats itself right away.

The referenced Psalm does not seem (at all) to be banal, lacking in depth, shallow, or doctrineless. Simple? Yeah. The others? Not so much. On the other hand, there are praise songs that are all of those things and that very much deserve that criticism.

#2 - Repetitiveness. Sure, it has a place. In the referenced Psalms it has context and meaning. With a "song" like "Dance in the River." Eeehhhh . . . . probably not. Repetition should serve the purpose of driving a point home, not whipping us into a frenzy or lulling us into a trance.

#3 - Um. The focus of that Psalm is not on the instruments. It's on praising God.

#4 - Too much focus on an intimate relationship. Yeah. Consider "Dance With Me" by Jesus Culture. There are songs that literally do come off as the cliched "Jesus is my boyfriend." Jesus is not our boyfriend, and we should not be singing to him like he is.

#5 - Hey. No problems there. Good long songs have lots of room for good solid doctrine. Lex orandi, lex credendi (Latin, roughly "the law of praying [is] the law of believing"). Singing is one of the best ways the church has to help the body commit good theology and doctrine to memory and to heart.

#6 - Wish I knew what songs prompted this particular criticism. I don't feel I can respond adequately to this point at the moment other than to say good Christian doctrine sung in good songs will be universally relatable to the body. If it's not universally relatable, perhaps it should be reevaluated. This sounds like a problem with temporary feelings being elevated over Biblical truth in the context of the song. It's the difference between saying "I'm walking through the valley of the shadow of death" and saying "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, You are with me." The former is just personal feeling. The latter is Biblical truth that concerns the entire body.

#7 - Okay.

#8 - Again, context and meaning. Is it that Psalm actually just expressing negative emotion or is there a point to it?

#9 - re: the first half of the point: A short song in itself is not an argument for saying it over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over . . . again, see #2.

This sort of argumentation only works to a point for me. Yes, you can find good reason for short, repetitive, intimate, whatever songs in the Psalms. But, keep in mind that those have context, meaning, and depth and they do not justify the legitimately bad, short, repetitive, intimate, whatever songs that are out there. And we should not be brushing aside the people who bring up concerns about those songs. Rather we need to carefully evaluate what they have to say. Songs used in corporate worship truly are an important part of the service and they deserve, even need, careful inspection and critique.
I think it's EXTREMELY important to look at who posted this article: The Gospel Coalition.

I went to the Gospel Coalition Conference 2014. The worship was done by Stuart Townend, and he did almost exclusively re-worked hymns and modern hymns he wrote. I've been pretty plugged into worship music for over 10 years, and I was there with our worship director and our lead pastor. None of us are naive Passion/Hillsong/Jesus Culture junkies, and all there of us were struggling to follow along with the songs because were unfamiliar with the hymns selected. The Gospel Coalition is FAR from pool culture Christian and CCM.

This article was written by someone in a community to a community which tends to be overly cynical and critical towards modern worship. This ISN'T a Jesus Culture fan boy writing a defense of Jesus Culture. He is in the circles making those criticisms and probably agrees with many of them. He would almost certainly agree with your specific examples. It's the broad strokes and cynicism. Of course you and I can pull up counter examples to his points, but his point wasn't to defend all worship songs in broad strokes. The point was that we should criticize with broad strokes.


I have regular conversations with my sister where she criticizes the worship at her church for many of the reasons listed. She then takes those complaints and applies it to all worship music. Really the issue is more likely that the worship leader at her church doesn't balance his song selection and repeats things more than he should.
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Unread 02-13-2014, 12:46 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reuben View Post
#2 - Repetitiveness. Sure, it has a place. In the referenced Psalms it has context and meaning. With a "song" like "Dance in the River." Eeehhhh . . . . probably not. Repetition should serve the purpose of driving a point home, not whipping us into a frenzy or lulling us into a trance.
I've used that song as an example of this as well, but I don't know that it's a fair example. That song appeared on a Passion album over 10 years ago, and I've yet to hear anyone actually use it live.

So the example is a bit like saying, "Modern worship music is WAYYY too repetitive because 12 years ago Chris Tomlin [before he really broke into the mainstream] led a song at an event where he just repeated one stupid line for 6 minutes! Why is all of it so repetitive?!?"

That song was on a popular CD, but it was not a popular song.


Quote:
#3 - Um. The focus of that Psalm is not on the instruments. It's on praising God.
But in practice, someone would raise the same complaints about that Psalm. If you replace the instruments in the Psalm with guitars, keyboards, pads, drum kits, bass, etc. suddenly the complaint seems to be restricting what you can and can't do in worship with instruments.


Quote:
#4 - Too much focus on an intimate relationship. Yeah. Consider "Dance With Me" by Jesus Culture. There are songs that literally do come off as the cliched "Jesus is my boyfriend." Jesus is not our boyfriend, and we should not be singing to him like he is.
There will always be bad examples of songs. I don't know that I would say that this is a trend amongst actually popular worship songs right now. I'm sure you can find songs by popular artists, but I think worship over the last 10 years has drifted from the Jesus is my boyfriend trend.
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Unread 02-13-2014, 06:38 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe F View Post
I see it as more of a bit of satire about the people who constantly dissect, analyze and broadbrush judge worship songs so much they should just wait and come to the service once the music ends. Over the years I have encountered pretty much every example of his generic complaints, applied in broad brush strokes to every style of music from hymns to contemporary to metrical psalms, to southern gospel. He is just poking a bit of satirical fun at the fact that many of those broadbrush complaints could just as ignorantly be applied to the psalms.
Right on. I don't really understand why you all are criticizing this article. I'm not trying to start an argument, but I think that the author makes some excellent points.
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Unread 02-13-2014, 07:07 PM   #11
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I think I'm the only one criticizing it so far.

I actually have a lot of appreciation for TGC - this article just doesn't quite do it for me though.
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Unread 02-13-2014, 07:35 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sean View Post
I've used that song as an example of this as well, but I don't know that it's a fair example. That song appeared on a Passion album over 10 years ago, and I've yet to hear anyone actually use it live.

So the example is a bit like saying, "Modern worship music is WAYYY too repetitive because 12 years ago Chris Tomlin [before he really broke into the mainstream] led a song at an event where he just repeated one stupid line for 6 minutes! Why is all of it so repetitive?!?"

That song was on a popular CD, but it was not a popular song. .
Wow...I must have missed that 'Dance in The River' one. I searched it on YouTube. Glad it was before my time as a Worship Leader. Someone might have asked me to use it.....

Kind of reminds me of another moldy oldie that wasn't quite as bad but did wear a bit thin sometimes.. "I could sing of Your love forever...I could sing of Your love forever...I could sing of Your love forever...I could sing of Your love forever...I could sing of Your love forever...I could sing of Your love forever...I could sing of Your love forever...I could sing of Your love forever...I could sing of Your love forever...We'll be singing this song forever..."
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Unread 02-13-2014, 08:11 PM   #13
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This has been a good discussion. I've probably found myself in the TGC school of thought more often than not, I appreciate Sean's interaction with the post. Perhaps some of our criticisms of contemporary worship music do not reflect the latest trends.
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Unread 02-13-2014, 08:27 PM   #14
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I think every song has to be taken on its own merits and if we find ourselves questioning the Biblical legitimacy of any song, we have many tools at our disposal with which to help us discern whether or not a song is right for our congregation to sing.

No need to over think this stuff...or the contents of the TGC link...imho.
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Unread 02-14-2014, 01:51 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reuben View Post
I think I'm the only one criticizing it so far.

I actually have a lot of appreciation for TGC - this article just doesn't quite do it for me though.
I didn't whole heartedly endorse it's entire contents, but I do like that it is food for thought--and I don't think the thought should stop with reading the article.

As I did point out there are some who overdo it.

So the article had some good points and it is food for thought.
But like anything--discernment is also needed.
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